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Embracing the beauty of diversity

by Jill King

I believe that every human is born with value and worth, therefore should be entitled to rights. I also believe that every person is unique, characterized with specific attributes which contribute to who they are and what they have to offer the world. When we look to a level playing field of equality as an end goal, it’s important to keep this masterful mosaic of the human race in mind. No one should be treated poorly because of their classification, but perhaps individuals should be considered in light of the diversity they represent. There’s an attitude that I perceive to be somewhat forced when we attempt to view the world through the lens of color-blindness, sexual orientation blindness, religious blindness- the list goes on. This practice really does us a disservice and manifests itself through our societal ignorance. We were all created in the image of God, and this is one telling commonality that humans share. He created this world with color and variety, and it would be a shame to dilute these characteristics that reflect his very nature. I believe in advocacy and justice for those without a voice, but when the motivation is pure power, not supported by experience or relationships, I think we are missing the point.

As a woman, I want to be perceived and remembered for the unique person God made me to be. He gave me a feminine nature, a compassionate spirit, and zest for life. I do not want to assert power and control to simply prove something to the world. I want to thrive in my God given identity. I think it would serve us well to see others for who they really are, not only through association of the tribe that they belong to. I wish we could boldly admit to one another that we are different and intentionally celebrate or advocate for the difficulty that comes along with certain classifications. We can’t ignore the fact that we live among people who are not like us. I don’t want to look past skin, which tells a story of history and surrounds eyes that have witnessed things that some of us have only had nightmares about. I want to be seen differently than a man, because some of my God given qualities are based on the distinguishing characteristics of being a woman. I will not assume someone with a different sexual orientation is just like me, because I know their experience of facing society is vastly different from my own. I want to have an understanding of different religions, because our faith and beliefs significantly impact the way we choose to live our lives.

My desire is to deeply understand others, not to assume that everyone is like me or that we are simply all the same. I’ve always been burdened by the fact that even when we seek to walk in the shoes of another, we still only have our own perception of their perspective. We can not get outside of our own mind, but the Holy Spirit can bring wisdom and understanding. When we view people in light of who they are, understanding that there is no replication of them in this world, it shifts the way we see others, and it deepens our expression of love. If our hearts are centered on the beauty of diversity, I believe we will take advances toward being more direct with one another, and less concerned about being politically correct. Our uniqueness matters, and it’s all part of His eternal Kingdom.

How you first engage a new culture matters

by Omar Reyes

Konrad Lorenz the Nobel Prize winning psychologist discovered a concept called bonding or imprinting. Most of us remember the picture of the duckling following him around at that critical time, just after hatching. Lorenz and the duckling were alone together and from that point forward the duckling responded to him as if he were the parent. The imprinted duckling experienced a sense of belonging to the man. Recent studies support the concept and significance of bonding between a mother and her baby. If mother and infant are together at that critical time right after birth a close bond occurs, but if mother and infant are separated immediately after birth, the infant can become attached to a surrogate or substitute mother. Apparently right after birth divinely designed psychological and physiological factors impact a newborn’s ability to bond with his parents. Birth is essentially the entrance into a new culture and environment with new sights, sounds and smells. It has been proven that during this moment of entrance, a child is especially equipped with the extraordinary ability to respond to these new and unusual circumstances. There is an important parallel between the infant entrance into his new culture and people who engage into a new foreign culture.

The first days and weeks of engaging a culture are critical. In this situation the person entering a new culture is bombarded with new sensations, sights, and smells but is able to respond to the new environment and experiences, while his adrenaline is flowing and his excitement is at a peak. Upon arrival he is in a unique state of readiness, both physiologically and emotionally, to establish a bond with the local people in his new environment. But instead many times he is taken away to bond with people of his own culture first, losing this unique opportunity. New missionaries tend to create this bond with other expatriates rather than with the people of the new society.  I grew up in Belize and was greatly influenced by Canadian missionaries and witnessed the effect of these two types of entrances. When the missionaries did not quickly immerse themselves in the local culture they were primarily perceived as outsiders and found it very difficult to develop a sense of feeling at home in that local culture, therefore seldom pursued, as way of life, significant relationships in the community. This was often reflected in their language and attitude towards the locals. You would often hear statements like “Oh, these people! Why do they always do things this way?” or “Someone ought to teach them how to live.” or “Won’t these people ever learn?”

During those first days or weeks, immerse yourself in the local culture. Try to live with a local family for a few weeks before you engage others like yourself. It’s better to dive right in and experience life from the “insider’s” perspective. Live with the local people, go shopping with them and use their public transportation. From the very first day it is important to develop meaningful relationships with the local people.  It will leave a lasting imprint. God came to us and entered our culture and made His home among us and became a belonger with mankind in order to draw people into a belonging relationship with God.